Tuesday, July 10, 2018

hook knife and carving axe arrived today from Wood Tools!

Oh, joy! my hook knife and carving axe arrived today from Wood Tools. I got a right handed decreasing radius hook knife and their carving axe. Both came carefully wrapped with edge protection shown (and for the axe a generous few turns of plastic wrap to hold the edge guard in place.

They arrived sharp, and ready to rock. I will have to wait before i can test these out due to life circumstances, but putting them to use keeps me looking forward to them

Here are some closeups. the handles are very comfortable, without a finish which is my preference with wood handles. The octagonal cross section of the spoon knife feels perfect in my hands.
Also coming with the shipment is a delightful little brochure revealing the characters behind this small business and a background sketch of the proud traditions embodied in Sheffield steel working.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

updating shop handtool storage

after spending time in curtis buchanan's workshop for a full week and understanding how pleasant work can be when the tools are logically arranged and easy to reach, i set forth to rethink how i store mine.

Here is the plan, a chest of drawers that fits between the metal frame of an upcycled desk that i've had in the shop since the beginning.

Here you see the metal frame'ed desk with an improvised table top on the right. An old, quickly thrown together 3 drawer arrangement on the left used to occupy the space between the desk legs. It has always felt kind of janky.

what makes this desk successful in my shop is the sturdy caster enabled hooves on the base, abling one to tow the table with one hand to wherever it is needed in the shop. work flows much better when the tool you need is within arm's reach as opposed to hanging on the wall around the bench and out of reach.

the construction is mostly CasaDespair pine, and i spend a while picking through the stacks to find some nice enough material that I milled down to 5/8" and then jointed into panels that will divide the chest into 3 equidistant tiers.
I left the stretchers at 3/4" and cut dadoes on the interior walls, while applying dovetails to the outside joints. it feels pretty sturdy even though it's pretty light.
I am trying a drawer construction technique that is new to me. it's simply rabbets that are glued up and then pinned with wooden pegs. For the upper drawers, i milled a 3/4" wide and 1/4" deep groove on the sides with a dado stack. these will ride on rails that i will skrew into the interior sides of the chest. The drawer sides are made of offcuts of ash that my contractor friend let me have from a project. it's very tough wood but it mills nicely.

The bottom drawers will run on metal slides that i had 3 extras from an earlier project. this makes sense because the drawers will hold my heavier bench planes, etc.

I layed out the drawer heights based on my existing tools, and how they group naturally in my workflow. there's also room for more tools, but not much, and i really dont have much need for more tools right now.
I had originally thought to put glue storage in this chest as well, but i opted out since the jugs are too large a format to make space for in this place. best to store this somewhere else.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

jonesborough afterword

well, here the finished sackback windsor from Curtis Buchanan's class sits with the final coat of varnish, scrubbed down using 0000 steel wool and then paste wax. this will be the ultimate writing chair in our guest room/library.
I was a bit worried about assembly after transit home, but i kept the spindles in a low oven for a few hours, and then used Titebond liquid hide glue. I love that glue now, it's not as grabby as yellow glue and has a bit more open time.
I also scabbed on a piece of the original oak to my little boo-boo on the outer perimeter of the handle. worked a treat.
here she stands with the base layer of barn-red milk paint. it's hard to see in the computer photos above how the red is expressed underneath a washcoat of black. but it's apparent. it i think is my favorite way of painting wood. it's hard to do and requires a lot of patience and also elbow grease.
i read this book on the airplane to/from Tennessee. It's a collection of 7 short stories, focusing on the hardscrabble family life of the Atlantic coast of Canada. i had to weep as discreetly as possible on the plane.
here is a very special spoon that i brought home from jonesborough. turns out it is fantastic at serving quinoa, just like the maker suggested. now onto building a shaving horse...and finding a proper riving froe...and maybe an axe...and putting that god damned table saw up for sale on craigslist...

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Curtis Buchanan Sackback Day 7

It's May in Jonesborough, TN, USA. Big downpours of rain can last for 5 minutes or 5 hours, depending. We woke today to the latter amount of rain and Rob was kind enuough to swing by my cottage and pick me up to get to curtis' shop without running through old town with a garbage sack raincoat improvisation.

Luckily we started the day with more spindle work to get these things in their final tune. I needed some mule work to warm up with. For the sack back chair, we have 3 intersections to nail with the spindles where they hit the seat, the armrail, and the crest rail. you get real close using test offcuts that have been drilled using the bits you used for the attaching pieces. There's a system for this that Curtis uses and it's really helpful. I don't want to do anything but make spindles for the rest of my life. I'll wear a monk's habit and take a vow.

here we're using a rat's tail file to define the taper of the bores of the hand rail that the spindles have been tuned for using an offcut
Next up was to get the crest rail joined to the hand rail. yep, more hot angular drilling action was in play using sightlines in two directions, and two comrades to spot your angle of approach.
because the crest rail is perfectly tapered from the tapering system that we applied on tuesday, we use reamers used for cello tuning knobs (i think) to orient the hoop in the right direction. you are considering a multitude of factors when doing this involving forwared/reverse/twist. These reamers are amazing in their effect. just a few shavings will give a measurable impact.
Here's a mistake i made. I was trying to bandsaw off the waste of the handles, and managed to bump the opposite side while pulling out of the cut to relieve it from another angle and it cut into that very important outer radius. well. i had to shake that one off. Mark had the right idea to just scab on a piece and redo the cut. I'll do that, but i wont be doing any more bandsawing today.
There's a systematic way of "winging it" in this workshop. you reduce your problem to a few known sight lines and then set forth with your drill. it worked well for me here. Curtis emphasizes all the marginal things you can do to arrive on time with a piece. Get your angles as well as possible from the start and you don't have to oversteer when you get close. I love this approach because it makes sense to me and how i live my small life.
Rob lives in Nevada, me in Californication. We're not doing the full glue up of our chairs, but we watch and take notes from a "live" glue up. I noticed this during the undercarriage assembly exercise that curtis understands the anxiety of anticipation and somehow is able to subdue it with a warming drape of reassurance. You're good here. You wont encounter something that can't be fixed.

we won't test this observation today, since Mark's chair went together so beautifully. Curtis coached us through the glue up and it works. we just paused to take in what had occurred. A bunch of wet, wild wood was dimensioned to make a beautiful, refined piece. These chairs are "built like a tank" as curtis says. but they are so damned gossamer and light. My phrase? TITANIUM GRANDMA HUG.

arm rests from maple are pre-kerfed, but the lower spindles are cut insitu with a chisel

I finally got the outermost upper spindle holes drilled after a bit of courage (you aim in a way that makes sense but requires a bit of controlled 'winging it'. i'm happy. this chair will welcome sarah and me to the desk in our guest bedroom/library. it's a gossamer hug from TITANIUM GRANDMA. this chair is stronger than you'd think because it's derived from straight grained white oak and maple. it's the chair to use as a shield for getting out of a bar browl. it is a chair to hide under in an earthquake. it's a chair that i hope to die in if it's not the bed i made. (presuming there will be any remains when i die).
Rob and I went to a U-Haul outlet to get some packing material for return to our homes. We got a small wardrobe style box and cut it down and used some bubble wrap and extra cardboard to hopefully provide safe passage for assembly on our return. I'm just fitting my chair here, it will be layered in oak shavings and bubble wrap and a few prayers.

I hope to post a final assembly when i get home.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Curtis Buchanan Sackback Day 6

Six down, one to go. Today we worked on joining the arm rail to the seat. There's a tricky amount of geometry to figure out while reducing the organic geometry that this chair consists of, to angles that one can measure and/or drill a hole to. What is surprising is how well these tricks work at getting your joints to mesh up okay with one-another.

after a bit of spindle warm-up, we progressed to the arm rails. We pulled them from the jigs where they were drying in a kiln and cleaned them up a bit with planes, spokeshaves, card scrapers, sand paper, and Frank Zappa.
A bit of stuff happened and PRESTO
Here's Mark's, ready for take-off.
Rob is just off the lower spindle shaving ablutions and is seating his arm rail. all the chairs are looking good from here. the beautiful angles are hard to achieve in the shop, but that's what makes a comfortable chair. We did 11 hours today 8-7:30 with a small break for lunch. We're engrossed in the work even though it's hard.

Curtis Buchanan Sackback Day 5

I walk 10 minutes from the cottage i am staying to where i'll meet up with mark and rob on a new adventure in curtis' workshop. none of us really knows what's next; we're all kind of 110% engaged in just keeping up with the present, hanging onto a rail with our legs dangling out the side
Curtis is making the same sackback chair along with us and many of the lessons begin with him talking through what we'll be doing, and then demonstrating on his chair, with some elaboration carried out on a chalkboard if need be (his ingenious kiln cabinet houses racks for chair parts to dry out but its doors are chalkboards for sketching details on). He carries through a sequence and then we try to execute this sequence.

Well, today involved a lot of sketching, and a lot of doing. We're assembling the undercarriage of our chairs from carefully fitted parts, joining in a complex sequence made as simple as possible.

This involves taking care to mark your pieces in a way that leaves no doubt about how things go together when the clock is ticking. It also involves very practical ways to measure these odd angles using as simple of layout tools as is possible.

In a small class of 3 students, we acted as a team. The undercarriage assembly could be broken down into 3 major stanzas. First, layout and angle measurement. here we each measured our angles on all the joints, recorded them and marked them on our pieces as instructed. We then each checked each-other's work, and checked, and re-checked. I don't think we found any errors in our markings, but it was really confidence boosting to have someone else give a once-over after all the work put into the parts. It's like anything important in life, and it vests each of us in each other's work.

Secondly, we all drilled out our joints using the ingenious alignment system that Curtis had set up. There are many ways to skin this cat but with a small team of 3, one person could verify your angle bevel's setup while another helped you with getting your drill plumb.

Finally, glue up. any woodworker can relate to how anxious this can be. having 2 other comrades to see something you missed is invaluable. and i remember at least 2 instances where my team helped me with something i got reversed or a glue tenon i missed. I was so thankful having Mark and Rob there to watch over me and i was also invested in their pieces going together.

I have Essential Tremor (ET), which is an inherited neurological quirk where my brain's signals to my hands are scrambled just a bit, and it gets worse when i get tense, such as while doing unfamiliar work in front of people. Today I literally had to brace my right hand with my left while applying glue to a mortise in order to avert glue spattering all over the bench! Rob and Mark were particularly helpful while i struggled. Canadian woodworker Stumpy Nubs has the same deal, and recently shared a video regarding his challenges with the condition.

At the end of the afternoon, we all had successful undercarriages put together in a time-tested way. It was a hard day with a lot of uncomfortable learning to do and i think we each gained a lot from having our boundaries expanded.
Oh, and let there be no mistake, any moment of downtime you'd be damned sure we were out on our shaving horses taking these once ripe chunks of white oak down to a gossamer, athletic spindles to support the backs for years beyond our own time! Here I am simulating my future self's pubic hairs.
A particularly handsome planter i saw on our walk to pizza and beer after today's work.